Dangerous Lead Levels Found in Some Garden Hoses

Tests of 10 garden hoses find five with lead levels over EPA standards.

ByABC News via logo
July 12, 2007, 9:37 AM

July 12, 2007 — -- It's about as uncomplicated as it gets rip off the package, screw the fitting onto a spigot and your new garden hose is good to go.

At least that's what Louise Broyles thought.

"There was no reason to think it wouldn't be safe," Broyles said. "It's a garden hose so why wouldn't it be safe?"

But on the packaging of the garden hose was a tiny warning that said, "Do not drink out of this product," and, "This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects and/or reproductive harm."

It turns out some garden hoses may contain dangerous levels of lead.

In a test, reporters from ABC's Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV bought 10 garden hoses randomly at places like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target and Ace Hardware.

They filled sections of the hoses with clean water, sealed the ends and put them outside for about a day. Then they delivered that water to a lab.

Five of the 10 hoses came back with levels of lead higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency allows for drinking water: 15 parts per billion. Four of those came back with extremely high lead levels.

"Hoses tend to be made of PVC, which is a dirty plastic, and lead is used as a stabilizer in that plastic," said Charlie Pizarro, associate director at the Center for Environmental Health.

In 2004, the CEH sued three of the country's leading hose makers for having high levels of lead in their products.

"Lead is a potent neurotoxin. There is no amount of lead that's safe for a child," Pizarro said. "They create a public health risk to children. They put children at risk for brain damage, developmental disabilities and a host of other very serious problems."

The CEH won a settlement, and the manufacturers agreed to reformulate and significantly reduce lead levels by July 31 of this year.

Pizarro said that agreement was important because warning labels weren't enough.

"There's a need for a strong national standard on lead in all products, but particularly products that are going to be used by small children," he said.